By Natalia V. Navarro and Colorado Public Radio Staff

Updated: March 11, 2020 @ 6:15 a.m.

How many cases of COVID-19 have been discovered in Colorado?

Seventeen, plus a possible 18th case that is still awaiting confirmation. Two people tested positive on March 5, and six more the next day. There were no positive tests on Saturday, March 7, or Sunday, March 8. Four more cases and the inconclusive one were announced Monday, March 9. Gov. Jared Polis announced three new cases Tuesday morning as he declared a statewide emergency.

There is a 19h case with a Colorado connection, but it is not yet known how close that connection might be. A woman in her 20s who visited Aspen returned to Australia last week, where she tested positive for COVID-19. Further investigation of her contacts in Aspen is underway. A state release Sunday said some of the people with whom she interacted in Aspen were now experiencing “respiratory symptoms.”

Canadian authorities have also reported that a woman who visited Colorado and returned to Toronto March 2 has now tested positive for COVID-19. Colorado officials have not confirmed any connection to the state.

The other patients are a mix of residents and visitors to Colorado. Here are the locations and brief descriptions of each.

Arapahoe County

  • A Centennial woman in her 30s who recently returned from a trip to India. She is recovering in isolation at home.
  • A male in his 50s. No other information was released.

Douglas County

  • A woman in her 70s who recently returned home from an international cruise. Recovering in isolation.
  • A “school-aged” female exposed through international travel. Recovering in isolation.
  • A woman in her 40s also exposed through international travel. Recovering in isolation.

Denver

  • A woman in her 70s who had been on an international cruise. Recovering in isolation
  • A man in his 40s who had recently traveled to Vancouver. Recovering in isolation.
  • A woman in her 30s with recent travel within the US but no known prior contact with an infected person.
  • A woman in her 70s who has traveled recently within the U.S., but had no known exposure to an infected person. Her state test for the illness was indeterminate, but health officials are treating her case as positive for now while she awaits results from the CDC.
  • A female teenager. No other information was released.
  • A woman in her 40s. She was originally identified as being from Gunnison County, but is from Denver and just “has ties” to Gunnison.

Eagle County

  • A woman in her 50s who was visiting the area and had traveled internationally. Recovering in isolation.
  • A woman in her 70s who has traveled recently in the US but had no known contact with an infected person. She has mild symptoms and is recovering in isolation but did not require hospitalization.
  • A male in his 30s. No other information was released.

El Paso County

  • A man in his 40s who had recently traveled to California. Recovering in isolation.

Jefferson County

  • A man in his 50s. He is isolated in a medical facility, but in stable condition.

Larimer County

  • A woman in her 50s now suffering from pneumonia. Further investigation is underway to determine where she may have contracted the illness and with whom she has had contact.

Summit County

  • A man in his 30s who had recently traveled to Italy and was visiting Colorado to ski. Recovering in isolation in Jefferson County.

Several other individuals, many of whom were exposed to those who tested positive, remain in quarantine to see whether symptoms of the illness develop.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment publishes daily numbers of positive test results here, and county health departments are now providing their own updates on local cases as positive test results are received. Colorado is able to test patients for coronavirus — and get a result within 24 hours.

What do you want to know about COVID-19? Send your question to our news department.


What is coronavirus? What is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses. Several coronaviruses cause respiratory infections in humans. Some commonly circulate and cause mild illness, like the common cold. Others cause more severe diseases like MERS and SARS. The virus causing the outbreak today is a new kind of coronavirus — hence the “novel” — that had not been previously seen in humans. The novel coronavirus causes a disease called COVID-19.

The World Health Organization gave the disease its name in February. The “CO” stands for “corona,” “VI” for “virus,” and “D” for “disease.” The “19” refers to the year 2019 when the strain was discovered. Coronaviruses are named for the spikes that stick out from their surfaces, which look like a crown or the sun’s corona.

How does COVID-19 spread?

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person to person, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the disease to others.

Because the virus is so new, the details of how exactly the virus spreads from person to person are still unclear. Experts know the likelihood of infection when in a room with a sick person depends on how close you get, how long you are near the person and whether that person projects viral droplets on you or something you touch. The virus hitches a ride on a droplet of mucus or saliva. Those droplets come out of the nose and mouth when we cough, sneeze, laugh, sing, breathe and talk. They can enter someone else through the eyes, nose or mouth, often transported by your hand when you touch your face. Your age and physical health are also major factors in whether you become ill from the virus.

Viral droplets don’t pass through the skin, which means washing your hands is very effective at protecting yourself. It can be spread through kissing, but coronaviruses are not typically sexually transmitted. The WHO said it’s too soon to know for sure whether that’s the case for this strain.

The virus could be spread if a sick person handles your food or if you’re eating at a buffet, but heating or reheating food should kill the virus, experts say.

Will a mask protect me?

A mask is not the best way to protect yourself from the coronavirus. But it could help limit the spread of illness from you to other people.

How do I protect myself from getting sick?

Wash your hands, disinfect surfaces you touch a lot, cover your cough (with your elbow) and avoid touching your face.

Because of the fragility of their outer membrane, coronaviruses are killed easily with disinfectants. They survive for only a short time outside the human body.

What are the symptoms?

The CDC said patients with COVID-19 report mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure.

How worried should I be?

Not very. The risk to Coloradans is low, according to the state health department.

The risk to people in the U.S. as a whole is also low, according to the CDC. People in communities where the virus is spreading have a slightly higher, but still relatively low, risk of exposure. This does not currently include Colorado, where health officials say no cases have been detected. This virus is not currently spreading widely in the United States.

What should older adults and those in nursing homes do to stay healthy?

The people who are the most at-risk are older adults and people who have weaker immune systems.

The general recommendations to protect yourself from coronavirus are the same as the flu: wash your hands frequently, avoid large crowds and stay away from people who are sick.

For older adults who are in nursing homes, it’s best to screen and limit the number of visitors coming to facilities. Any staff member that is sick should not come to work.

How dangerous is it?

Overall, experts said it’s hard to assess the lethality of a new virus. So far, it seems to be less fatal than SARS or MERS, other coronaviruses. Infectious disease experts estimate around 2 percent of people infected (or less) die from COVID-19, based on research on the initial outbreak in China.

Older adults and people with weaker immune responses are more likely to get a serious case of the disease. Children appear to be at low risk.

About 80 percent of people who get COVID-19 have only mild symptoms, and may not know they have it.

What does a quarantine look like?

The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment has issued two quarantine orders as of March 5. The quarantines last 14 days, which seems to be the incubation period of the virus.

The department defines its quarantine order like this:

“A quarantine order is a legal document with instructions to prevent individuals who have been exposed to a disease and may become infectious from potentially spreading the disease to other people. The orders direct the quarantined individuals to follow these rules: 

  • You shall be confined to your home and shall not attend any public gathering, provided no symptoms of illness develop in the interim. 
  • You are not allowed to attend childcare, school, or work, provided no symptoms of illness develop in the interim. 
  • You may not use public transportation. 
  • You may not have visitors at the home unless they are determined by DDPHE to be adequately protected and have an essential need to be in the home; this is in effect until termination of these Quarantine Orders. 
  • DDPHE staff will contact you daily, with possible in-home visits as necessary, to monitor your health. 
  • You shall monitor your health, including logging and reporting to public health daily the following signs and symptoms: 
    • Fever. Take and log temperature twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening 
    • Cough 
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Chills, body aches, sore throat, headache, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, runny nose”

What is Colorado doing to prepare for an outbreak?

Gov. Jared Polis elevated Colorado’s emergency readiness to its second-highest level on March 3 due to concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Polis said the state’s comprehensive statewide response to the virus includes a coordinated effort that involves 10 agencies. His administration will set up an incident command to manage the state efforts.

The state health department plans to coordinate with the health care system to prepare for cases in Colorado and actively monitor the situation through the state lab, which is providing seven-days-a-week testing according to Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of CDPHE.

She said the state had more than 650,000 protective masks and a plan “to deploy, if and when needed.” Polis said his administration will also take a number of other steps to stay on top of the potential impacts of the virus. That includes providing information to local health departments and providers, making sure providers know how to safely manage and collect specimens for testing from people possibly infected, and working to manage potential disruptions in the supply chain, including medications.

What are employers doing if they think a worker has been exposed?

A few employers across the state have told workers to stay home for a 14-day self-quarantine if they think they might or someone has told them they have been exposed. In Boulder, a school asked one teacher who might have been exposed on a recent cruise to stay home. The school sent a letter home to families. A Denver Federal Center employee in Lakewood also self-quarantined. Another federal employee in Denver also may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus and went under home quarantine. In an abundance of caution, the Office of Natural Resources Revenue said employees were given the option to work from home until Monday, March 9.

If I think I have COVID-19, how much will the test cost me?

According to CDPHE, the test is currently free to patients and facilities. It is covered under state outbreak funding.

Is there a vaccine, drug or treatment for COVID-19?

There’s no vaccine for the illness. There is also no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 receive care to help relieve the symptoms. However, doctors have gotten better at treating patients since the initial outbreak by administering fluids aggressively and using ventilators and artificial lungs in more serious cases.

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